We were asked to help administer an estate for a woman who told us she was the only living heir of her father. We thought that it would be a simple intestate estate administration, which means that there is no Last Will & Testament. We began discussing her father’s estate when I learned that the daughter sitting in front of me was not an only child. Her father had another child, a son, who used to live with them, but the son left over two years ago and has not been heard from since.
As we discussed the disappearing son, the daughter asked me a question:
“Does it matter that dad had two other children from years ago? I only met them once when I was very young. Does that matter?”
Yes, it does matter. Now we are dealing with a blended family of sorts, not a sole heir to a simple estate. We will spend the next several months sorting out who is “in” the family and who is not.
What could have been done to remedy the problems the daughter has at this point? First, her father could have written a Last Will & Testament naming, specifically, who was to receive what upon his passing. Children have no legal right to take anything from a parent’s estate against a properly executed Last Will & Testament. If her father’s Last Will & Testament said “I leave my entire estate to Hillary Clinton,” then Hillary Clinton would have received his entire estate. It wouldn’t matter that he had children spread across the northeast. A Last Will & Testament would have solved the entire problem.
Next, her father could have created what we call a “Honey, I love you” drawer. This is one drawer where all of the important contact information and documents are kept, such as his Last Will & Testament, insurance, accounting information. Everything that someone might need in the event of your demise.
Don’t send your loved ones on a wild goose chase. Take care of these very important documents today, while you are still with us.